Syrian ‘al-Qaeda’ group in UN spotlight

THE United Nations Security Council has begun informal talks on whether to impose sanctions on Syria’s rebel al-Nusra Front after it pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, France said yesterday.

The militant Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers and their Arab allies, which
favour the overthrow of president Bashar al-Assad but are alarmed by Sunni Muslim jihadi fighters whose fiercely anti-Shiite ideology has fuelled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.

French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said given Wednesday’s announcement by Nusra chief Abu Mohammad al-Golani it was logical to look at how to deal with the Syrian group in the framework of the “fight against terrorism”.

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“One option is to act at the UN Security Council … through the al-Qaeda 1267 sanctions committee,” he said.

He said talks were still at a very early stage.

Potential sanctions could include assets being frozen and travel bans.

The US designated the group a terrorist organisation last year.